Archive for the ‘News Roundup’ Category

Weekly News Roundup (February 17, 2019)

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

So how did you spend your Valentine’s Day/Singles Awareness Day/Just Another Thursday then? Whichever way you spent that day, hope the rest of your week was good nonetheless. We do have a bit of news to go through this week, I guess the year has started proper now, so let’s get through ’em!

Copyright

In this week’s “I didn’t see that coming! #sarcastic” story, YouTube’s copyright take-down system is now being abused by blackmailers.

This is how it works. Blackmailers are submitting fraudulent copyright abuse notices, resulting in some smaller channels getting two copyright strikes. Channels that receive 3 copyright strikes in a 3 month period will have their channels disabled, and the blackmailers know this. This is when the extortion attempt occurs, with the blackmailers sending an “offer” to channel owners to pay up (and have the 2 strikes reversed) or face the prospect of a third strike.

Screen capture of a video in which YouTube user  
ObbyRaidz informs his subscribers of the extortion attempt
YouTube user
ObbyRaidz informs his subscribers of the extortion attempt in a video

Channel owners can appeal any of these strikes, but the laborious process could see their channels disabled during the process, which can take weeks.

Two channel owners who were at the end of such a scam reported it to YouTube, but the streaming platform didn’t do anything about it until both aired their problems publicly, on Twitter (and incidentally, the scammers also tried to get one of the channel owner’s Twitter suspended as well for not following instructions to stay quiet) and Reddit. It was only when both attempts at seeking help became a news story, that YouTube finally acted and cleared all the fraudulent strikes, and banned the blackmailer’s accounts too.

The fact that YouTube didn’t take the matter seriously until they were called out for it in the public arena is troubling, but unfortunately, not that uncommon.

It wasn’t a huge loss for the blackmailers, it turns out, as their accounts were only recently created ones attached to a throwaway email account. It’s very likely they will attempt the same trick again, only this time, the unsuspecting victims might not get a viral response to their pleas. It’s also very likely that they’ve already tried found success with their previous efforts!

High Definition
Poster for Russian Doll
Russian Doll is an instant Netflix hit, at least when it comes to binge bragging rights

Over at Streambly, the latest “binge chart” saw Netflix’s Russian Doll go straight to the top after its recent release. The strength of Netflix, in particular, the strength of Netflix’s Original shows can be clearly seen in the top 10, with no less than 5 Originals in the top 10, and with some of the others being Netflix streaming exclusives as well.

There were only two shows in the top 10 that were older shows that had already ended their run. In third place was ‘Friends’, which Netflix paid a significant amount of money for, and ‘Gossip Girl’, which is also on Netflix.

Hopefully, the weekly binge report will become a regular feature on Streambly, so keep an eye peeled for more updates here if anything interesting happens.

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That’s all we have for this week. I know it’s not much, but sometimes that’s just how the week goes. See you next week.

Weekly News Roundup (February 10, 2019)

Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Sorry for the (really) long hiatus, but we’re back! Various reasons for the extended break, but suffice to say, the lack of news was one of the main ones.

But we do have news this week, and so we’re back!

Copyright

Without a single new episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ in 2018 (I’ve already forgotten that dragon lady’s name, and have no idea how many people are still left on that assassin girl’s list – yep, it’s been too long a hiatus), it was up to another show to take the “most pirated” crown. And in 2018, that show was ‘The Walking Dead’.

The Walking Dead is a favourite among pirates

The increased attention on ‘The Walking Dead’ now means that pirates are lining up to be the quickest to get new content to the masses, and the season 9 mid-season premier, unfortunately, has been leaked to pirate sites even before its official airing.

There’s no indication that an advanced copy of the episode was leaked to pirates, but it appears that TWD’s network, AMC, may have been the one that opened the door to pirates. AMC’s new on-demand streaming service, AMC Premiere, has made the debut episode available a week before the TV debut. It’s believed that this official stream is where the pirated episode, a WEBRIP, has come from.

The cool thing about all of this is that AMC has not overreacted to the news of the show becoming the most pirated in 2018, nor this most recent development. The truth of the matter is that piracy rates have actually decreased for the show in recent seasons, and that’s linked directly to the declining ratings the show has gotten. If a little bit of pre-release piracy can help give the show a publicity boost, then why not?

High Definition

Disney is looking for a boost of its own when its Disney+ streaming platform launches later in the year. And in a fiscal call, Disney’s CFO has revealed some more information about what will happen when Disney+ launches, and more importantly, what will happen to the studio’s current distribution channels.

Disney CFO Christine McCarthy revealed that the studio is set to forgo $150 million in third-party licensing revenue due to the move to Disney+. ‘
Captain Marvel’ might be the first major film from the studio that will debut on Disney+, and it might mean Disney will have to skip releasing the film early via other outlets in order to promote Disney+.

Captain Marvel may be the first big exclusive for Disney+

In the same fiscal call, McCarthy also hinted at a possible foreign expansion of Hulu, which Disney will own 60% of after its acquisition of Fox. While there is some overlap between Hulu and Disney+, Disney is keen to stress their differences, with Hulu hosting more “edgier” content like horror series ‘Into the Dark’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, neither of which would be a good fit for the more family oriented Disney+.

Here in Australia, it’s hard to see how a service like Hulu would fit into the crowded TV landscape. We already have two major subscription on-demand services, Netflix and Stan, that have a lock on a lot of movies and TV shows that are on Hulu (‘The Good Place’ on Netflix, and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ on free-to-air channel SBS and Stan). Plus, there’s cable operator Foxtel who has premiere rights on a lot of shows. For Hulu to succeed, they will have to come to some sort of agreement with the free-to-air channels (who have right to Hulu shows like ‘Law & Order: SVU’, ‘Modern Family’), but they all have their own catch-up/SVOD plans too. It might still work, but is there enough unique content to justify yet another subscription?

The situation may be better in other countries where competition is less robust, but it’s always going to be hard.

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So that’s what’s been happening this past week. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (January 13, 2019)

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Welcome back to the first WNR of 2019. Hope you’ve had a nice break. Our own little break here was abruptly interrupted by this little thing called CES 2019, and while we’re not lucky enough to be mingling with the crowds over in Las Vegas, there’s still news to report, and so here we are.

For those that aren’t subscribers to our newsletter (or didn’t get our Happy New Year newsletter), then here’s a belated Happy New Year to everyone. Hope you all have a great 2019!

Now on to the news …

It seems 2019 is the year of 8K, with practically anyone who is anyone bringing out their 8K sets, despite 8K content being so thin on the group, it verges on the invisible.

This is why Chinese TV giant TCL’s link up with streaming app platform Roku might give it a head start, since their co-branded 8K TVs will already have an entire library of apps to draw 8K content from.

And the chances 8K content coming to an app that’s on Roku is quite high and getting higher, because Roku now has 27 million active accounts (up 40% from a year ago), and it’s a platform to take seriously if you want to reach people with new content.

But with 8K offering almost four times as many pixels as 4K, the bandwidth requirements for 8K streaming will be tough to say the least. Even with a modest quality stream, you might be looking at a minimum requirement of 50 Mbps, and that’s not something readily available in people’s homes yet.

This is why discs will be here for a while yet, because it remains the most efficient way to get 8K content into people’s homes.

Samsung's smart TV with custom iTunes app
Samsung TVs to get its own, customized iTunes app

CES also showed off some new display tech in the form of Samsung’s Micro LED modular displays, which being completely bezel-free, means it can be joined up and configured in almost any aspect ratio and size. This is why Samsung was able to show off a 219-inch TV at this year’s CES, up from the 146-inch TV at last year’s CES.

More interesting was Samsung’s link-up with (often foe) Apple, announced at this year’s CES. Samsung is getting AirPlay 2 support, like a lot of other brands, but it’s also getting something nobody else is getting or has gotten in the past – it’s own iTunes app!

Apple are notoriously mean when it comes to sharing their platforms on other devices, and other than the Windows app for iTunes (somewhat more of a necessity, than a choice, for Apple), you’ll be hard pressed to find an official way of accessing the iTunes app on anything other than an iDevices running iOS. And Apple is even making a custom version that will integrate with Samsung’s own apps and functions, including Samsung’s own automated assistant, Bixby. And this is why Samsung’s announcement is a big deal.

In addition to Samsung’s 2019 TVs, Samsung’s 2018 TVs will also be getting both the AirPlay 2 and iTunes additions, via an upcoming firmware update.

Promotional photo of LG's roll up TV
LG’s roll up TV was a hit at CES 2019

But what wowed the crowds the most, perhaps, was LG’s take on the TV of the future – a TV that rolls up from a soundbar!

Taking full advantage of the flexibility of OLED displays (and moving beyond the idea of just a curved screen, or even a foldable one the case of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy mobile), LG has come up with a novel way to hide a TV in plain sight. When fully rolled up, the TV hides in the soundbar/TV cabinet, but still “functions” as a way to control the soundbar for audio/radio playback. The TV can al
HDHuluVOD/Streaming so poke its head out a little bit and act like a kind of overly wide tablet, that can also display pertinent information, such as the weather. Check out the video in the linked news article for why this TV will be a hot item for 2019.

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Moving away from the CES, Hulu has posted some great 2018 results, with subscribers up 47%, and revenue up by almost the same amount.

I don’t know how much the hit show ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ contributed to the results, but based on merit alone, I would not be surprised if this was the case. And if you haven’t watched the show yet, I strongly urge you give it a go – it’s by no means an easy watch, but it’s definitely a good one.

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That’s it for this very busy week. A good start to the new year. See you next week!

Weekly News Roundup (December 16, 2018)

Sunday, December 16th, 2018

I finished bingeing (or is that binging – nope, doesn’t look right) Narcos: Mexico. It was great. I mean, I wouldn’t put it anywhere near shows like The Sopranos or The Wire, but it’s a high quality production featuring some great acting and an amazing but true (well, mostly) storyline. It’s also reminded me that I should go watch Scarface again, which is exactly what I’m doing just before I started writing this WNR.

Also watched Alpha, suspected animal abuse aside, loved it for the beautiful cinematography and simple story.

And yes, there was still time for some news …

Discs sales are on the decline, that’s clear as day. Blu-ray sales peaked in 2013, it appears, while DVD sales peaked long ago. While Ultra HD Blu-ray has lifted Blu-ray’s numbers a bit, the general trend is still down, especially for DVDs.

Walmart Blu-ray and DVD Sales Rack
Blu-ray and DVD sales still doing well in certain locations, says Walmart

The very first Black Friday sales figures I tracked for DVDs had the revenue for the week at $386.35 million (this was in 2008). This Black Friday, that figure has dwindled down to $116.45 million.

Sure, Blu-ray revenue rose from $27.68 million in 2008 to $104.37 million in 2018, but that doesn’t come anywhere near plugging in the hole left by declining DVD sales.

But according to an EVP at Lionsgate, the decline in discs sales isn’t happening everywhere, and in rural USA, sales are still going strong

And the recent Black Friday sales also show one important thing – people still do buy discs in great numbers, but only if the price is right. The discounting of UHD titles from their usual $25 to $9 on Amazon really helped, and that’s because the perceived value of discs have dropped in a day and age where $11 per month gets you thousands of titles, including many exclusives, like Narcos: Mexico, that you would have paid good money to watch and own previously.

Scene from The Kissing Booth
Netflix’s most re-watched Original film in 2018 was The Kissing Booth

Speaking of Netflix Originals, the streaming giant has put together a review of 2018 in terms the most “popular” shows and movies that have premiered in 2018. Netflix is notoriously shy about releasing actual watch figures, so they’ve used some interesting metrics to measure the popularity of shows, movies and even the fastest rising stars. The Kissing Booth was the most popular Netflix original film because it was the most re-watched; On My Block just beat out Making a Murderer: Part 2 as the most popular original series because it had the higher average watch time per viewing session (I think that’s what you would normally call binge-factor), and The Fab Five from Queer Eye were the most popular stars because their Instagram follower count increased the most. 

And you know what, hardly any of the movies and shows listed by Netflix will ever make it to Blu-ray or DVD. And this, perhaps more than pricing, is the biggest obstacle facing physical media.

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Alright then, that’s all for the week. There won’t be a WNR next week as I’ll be away for the weekend at a wedding. Might not be one after that as well, considering it’s so near to Christmas and all that, but will try to pop on and say hello. And now, back to Scarface.

Weekly News Roundup (December 9, 2018)

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

So I watched two action movies this week. The action genre is not one of my favourites, although I really don’t mind it too much. But the differences in experience in watching the two action films, ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (I know, I shouldn’t have waited so long) and ‘Geostorm’, couldn’t be bigger. Well one movie has quotes like “You will ride eternal, shiny and chrome”, and the other has lines like “It’s GENOCIDE, LEONARD!” – so let’s just say one movie was “Mediocre, Devlin! Mediocre!”

Between the adrenaline rush that was Fury Road, the snooze-fest that was “Gravity” for idiots aka “Geostorm”, I also watched Netflix’s ‘Dogs’ dogumentary. “Sniff-Sniff”. What an intense week!

Oh yes, I had some time to write a few news stories too.

Copyright

Another week, another disappointment for Denuvo. They should be used to it by now. Only weeks after citing how important it was for games to be protected by Denuvo, if only to cover the first two week’s of the game’s release (when most of the piracy occurs), Denuvo’s owners, Irdeto, has had to deal with an embarrassing setback.

Not only did Denuvo fail to protect ‘Just Cause 4’ for two weeks, it couldn’t even protect the game for two days.

Just Cause 4 Screenshot
Just Cause 4 cracked in less than a day – #DenuvoDoesntWork

With the game currently being slammed by users for having too many issues, it seems to me that the publishers of the game, Square Enix, maybe should have invested the money they spent on licensing Denuvo on actually making the game work properly before release. The poor reviews plus the availability of a pirated copy should hurt ‘Just Cause 4’ sales, which is bad news for the fantastically talented people that worked on the game, but probably what was deserved for the people at Square Enix that made the decision to use Denuvo.

High Definition

So Black Friday has come and gone. I hope you didn’t spend too much, or if you did, you spent it well. And apparently, a lot of people spent good money on Blu-ray for this Black Friday, in particular, on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray.

Deadpool 2 Ultra HD Blu-ray
The Deadpool 2 UHD edition was discounted to $9 during Amazon’s Black Friday sales, down from the normal $25

Blu-ray sales, including UHD disc sales, were up almost 9% compared to last year’s Black Friday, and a lot of the growth was driven by UHD sales. The stats seem to imply this (unit sales up 3.4%, but revenue up a higher 8.9% – seems to suggest people were buying more expensive Blu-ray discs than last year, which could mean box sets or, more likely, UHD discs). The fact that Amazon, one of the main drivers for Blu-ray sales during Black Friday, discounted a lot of UHD discs to as low as $8, also seems to point to an UHD inspired buying frenzy.

Blu-ray sales, including UHD disc sales, were up almost 9% compared to last year’s Black Friday, and a lot of the growth was driven by UHD sales. The stats seem to imply this (unit sales up 3.4%, but revenue up a higher 8.9% – seems to suggest people were buying more expensive Blu-ray discs than last year, which could mean box sets or, more likely, UHD discs). The fact that Amazon, one of the main drivers for Blu-ray sales during Black Friday, discounted a lot of UHD discs to as low as $8, also seems to point to an UHD inspired buying frenzy.

There is also the fact that the top 10 Blu-ray sellers for Black Friday week were all titles that had UHD editions (and were either recently released UHD titles, or had UHD editions that were heavily discount). 

In other words, cheap UHD equals big Blu-ray sales!

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So that’s the end of another WNR, as we count down to the end of the year. I’m also writing this on the new WordPress editor, and I must say with such a nice and clean writing environment, I feel more productive already!